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Keywords:

  • Audit committee;
  • Audit fees;
  • Auditor independence;
  • Nonaudit services

Abstract

This study examines the association between audit committee characteristics and the ratio of nonaudit service (NAS) fees to audit fees, using data gathered under the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC's) fee disclosure rules. Issues related to NAS fees have been of concern to practitioners, regulators, and academics for a number of years. Prior research suggests that audit committees possessing certain characteristics are important participants in the process of managing the client-auditor relationship. We hypothesize that audit committees that are independent and active financial monitors have incentives to limit NAS fees (relative to audit fees) paid to incumbent auditors, in an effort to enhance auditor independence in either appearance or fact. Our analysis using a sample of 538 firms indicates that audit committees comprised solely of independent directors meeting at least four times annually are significantly and negatively associated with the NAS fee ratio. This evidence is consistent with audit committee members perceiving a high level of NAS fees in a negative light and taking actions to decrease the NAS fee ratio.